If Cambria residents needed a nudge to get ready to evacuate and escape an approaching wildfire, the shock of a June 16 midtown blaze near an illegal encampment off Highway 1 was that prod. Then images from the June 20 Park Hill Fire near Santa Margarita pushed us into horrified mode.
In Cambria, firefighters estimate that a gas-powered generator may have started the blaze in a bizarre encampment, which also included a solar collector, kitchen sink, windows, door and balcony! Fortunately, within less than an hour, crews doused the fire that had blackened a 30-by-30-foot area and triggered a townful of shaken residents.
Near Santa Margarita, according to a final Cal Fire report on June 24, that wildfire in steep, brushy terrain raged across nearly 1,800 acres — about one-third of the area that the U.S. Census Bureau designates as the 8.5-square-mile urban and rural Cambria.
Puts things into frightening perspective, doesn’t it?
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Santa Margarita’s Park Hill blaze ruined residences and outbuildings, leaving behind a stinky, scorched, ruined, ash-frosted moonscape.
What caused the conflagration that cost an estimated $3.5 million to fight? A vehicle-exhaust system spit out a speck of very hot carbon buildup, which ignited dry grass by the roadside.
A sizzling ember smaller than a dime. That’s all it took.
Now we head into the busy July 4 holiday. Because we’re in a fourth year of drought, there’ll be no annual fireworks show at the park; the drought-caused fire danger within Cambria’s so-dry Monterey pine forest is a crisis level.
However, American Legion Post No. 432 will host Cambria’s festive, fun, traditional, daylong Independence Day family picnic at Shamel Park, with games and races, food and live bands, plus dancing into the night to the music of a 17-piece orchestra.
No fireworks? The finale could be spectacular anyway, if the sunset is anything like the one we had on June 27. Who needs fireworks when Mother Nature provides a Technicolor backdrop?
We’re counting on every resident and visitor to obey the laws that forbid lighting even a sparkler here. No fireworks. Period.
Another motivation? A fine of up to $2,000 awaits those who don’t follow the no-fireworks rules.
We beg you to respect our hometown, its emergency conditions and its regulations and restrictions. Please be extra careful with barbecues, fire pits, cigarette butts … anything that could spark a blaze.
Just in case, every official wants us to prepare now for a catastrophic event, so we’ll know what to do if a fire should head our way (www.readyforwildfire.org).
Pack that emergency survival kit or “to go” bag now, they say, and have a list nearby of other items that can’t be packed in advance.
Sign up for Reverse 911 and Nixel (www.slosheriff.org), which will notify us of an emergency via landline or cell phone, telling us if we need to evacuate.
What then? We think we know where to go and how to get there in an emergency, but do we? What if our “usual” route is blocked?
We think we know what to do, but do we? A few Cambrians participated in an impromptu fire drill recently, and some of them discovered that they did not.
The Tanners have survived fire before: A 1994 blaze destroyed our home. We remember now what we didn’t have ready then, so I know well where our medicines and essential papers are (think insurance policy, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, deeds, videos/photos of our belongings, etc.), plus the medical equipment on which Husband Richard has relied since his stroke.
Before we evacuate, we hope we’d have time to grab our cameras, eyeglasses, car keys, computers, jewelry and niceties such as underwear, pajamas, a few changes of clothes, favorite pillows … oh, my goodness!
Sudden thought! We haven’t traveled since Husband Richard’s stroke, and we’re not yet sure how well he’ll do away from home.
Maybe we should do a fire drill for that, too: Make a sudden decision to go away for a night or two. No advance planning or prepacking. Just decide, take the essentials and go.
I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, please plan your own “Ready, Set, Go” routine now, then enjoy the Fourth of July holiday — but no fireworks, we implore you. Help keep us all safe. Please.